Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Translation time

Here in TRLEOOB*, we’ve been playing around with translation software.

For instance, as you may recall, in my day camp challah post, I wrote:

“Well done, young bakers!”

Most – if not all – human English-to-Hebrew translators would translate this as:

!כל הכבוד, אופים צעירים”

However, according to Microsoft, the correct translation is:

“!אופים שבוצעה היטב, צעיר” (Literally, “Bakers that was [sic] done well, young!”)

Meanwhile, Babylon came somewhat closer with:

“!טוב עשה, אופים צעירים” (Literally, “Good did [sic], young bakers!”)

And then there’s Google, which, in its infinite wisdom, chose to adopt a multilingual approach:

“!bakers ,כל הכבוד צעיר”

Now, admittedly, the literal meaning of this odd phrase is, in fact, “Well done, young bakers.”

Nevertheless, I must confess that I have a few, ahem, minor quibbles. Namely:

  • The word “bakers” isn’t exactly Hebrew.
  • In Hebrew, the adjective should follow the noun, but here the order is reversed.
  • Although “bakers” is obviously plural, “צעיר” is singular.

But to paraphrase one of my earlier posts, if the erudite Rav Google rules that this is the proper translation, who am I, a lowly and humble J-blogger, to argue?

Which translation did YOU like best?

On a related note, I was asked by the Hebrew-to-English translator who did this letter about the IDF chaplains to inform my readers that she’s available for translation work. For more information, please contact me at the email address in the sidebar to the above right, and I’ll gladly forward all inquiries to her.


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog


  1. has another take:

    כל הכבוד, צעירים האפייה!

    That's not so bad...

  2. Toby - You're right. It's not bad - especially compared to some of the other offerings...

  3. I recently need to find an English translation for מינהלת תיאום (something like coordination administration) and google suggested "twins administration" (תאום) Then this evening at dinner I noticed my Prigat משקה לימון נענעwas translated as Drink Lemon Mint. Well, thank you, I was.

  4. Malke - Drink Lemon Mint. Well, thank you, I was.
    BTW, how did you end up translating מינהלת תיאום? (Not that there's anything wrong with a twins administration...) Coordinator? Coordinating body? Something else entirely?

  5. Note that Google became a bit better. Today it translated "Well done, young bakers!" to "כל הכבוד, האופים הצעירים!" That is more or less correct.

    (Google improves continuously based on more human translations that it gets from various sources.)

  6. Anonymous - That's very interesting! Thank you for looking this up. And on that note, after reading your comment, I decided to see if the other translation programs had also improved in the intervening 2.5 years. The results:

    Microsoft still comes up with:
    !אופים שבוצעה היטב, צעיר

    But Babylon now suggests:
    !כל הכבוד, צעירים האפייה
    Which is exactly what came up with then (as per Toby's comment above) and which is both better and worse than Babylon's original suggestion:
    !טוב עשה, אופים צעירים


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